The NVC model: step 2, Feelings

Feelings in  NVC are often referred to as sensations and experiences we have ‘in the body’, although in my view this does not apply in all cases. We can agree though that feelings are distinct from mental processes involving thoughts, ideas and judgments. We generally consider feelings to be pleasant when a need of ours is being met or satisfied, and unpleasant when a need is frustrated or ignored.

Everyday language has some major pitfalls around the area of feelings and can contribute to a lot of confusion in this area. It is, unfortunately, quite normal in English to begin a sentence with the words “I feel...” and to continue it with something which is clearly not a feeling. For example, any sentence which begins “I feel that...” or “I feel like” is almost certain to end up with a thought or assumption about ourselves or others. More on this subject here.

Certain adjectives are also very commonly used after the words “I feel..” to express judgments rather than actual feelings. For example, ‘used‘, ‘let down‘ and ‘rejected‘, commonly offered as ‘feelings’ in everyday parlance, all betray a thought pattern of blaming someone else for our situation, without ever saying how we actually feel as a result of their actions: when I believe I have been ‘used‘, I may feel angry, while when you believe the same thing, you may feel sad. It makes a big difference: I may be looking for respect, whereas you are wanting support or comfort. Here’s a list of words for thoughts masquerading as feelings, and here are two more of what I would call more ‘real’ feelings!

To avoid these traps, it may help to ask ourselves where in our body our feeling sits or is felt. However, I am not convinced that all feelings can be located in this way. (When this works, it does so simply by drawing our focus away from our thoughts. Thoughts are actually just as much ‘in the body’ as feelings, and just as much ‘out of the body’! The confusion is because we are trained to think only in terms of the physical body versus the abstract mind, so we don’t have a place to ‘put’ feelings.)

Feelings are important. They are what remind us of our needs – whether fulfilled or not – and motivate us to meet them. Let’s say what we really feel!

Go back to the previous step in the model:   Observations
Go on to the next step in the model:   Needs

Go to NVC model overview